Pain of playing Pan - Pannists suffer poor posture, muscle strains
Pan players, both young and not so young, agree that playing the national instrument is out of love, but what does that love cost, physically?
Sunday Newsday met with physical therapist Dr Nicole De Freitas at Total Rehabilitation Centre, Boundary Road Extension, San Juan, to discuss the physical costs of pan playing.
De Freitas, who has treated pan players in the past, said the most common injury was due to improper posture. “Because of the posture they will have to be in, particularly for Carnival time, and since they practise for hours, usually after a full day of work, and some have children, so they tend to strain their muscles," she said.
She suggested, "One way to prevent aches and pains is adjusting the height of the pan to at least the waist level so the player can play their notes without bending forward excessively, as well as have the pans closer so that they don't overstretch.”
Single pan, as it is called now, is the evolved version of pan-round-the-neck. This practice of hauling pans, from the tenors in front to the bass to the back, stopped after pan players realised the pans were too heavy, put them on stands and, when needed, wheeled them around.
Single-pan arranger Keith Simpson said he had been playing for over four decades and played in the pan-round-the-neck era. While the pan around the neck was harmful then, the joy of playing eclipsed any and all pain, he said – a sentiment shared by many a pan player to this day.
Simpson recalled a story of a pan player’s foot being run over as the pans were pushed through the streets of Port of Spain and the player suffering a fracture. Talking about the pain of lugging a steelpan around the neck for hours at a time, he said there are "risks.”
PAN players, both young and not so young, agree that playing the national instrument is out of love, but what does that love cost, physically?
By Jensen La Vende
Trinidad and Tobago Newsday Newspapers.